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The Anti-Problem


Object of Play
The Anti-Problem game helps people get unstuck when they are at their wit’s end. It is most useful when a team is already working on a problem, but they’re running out of ideas for solutions. By asking players to identify ways to solve the problem opposite to their current problem, it becomes easier to see where a current solution might be going astray or where an obvious solution isn’t being applied.

Number of Players: 5–20

Duration of Play: 30–45 minutes

How to Play
1. Before the meeting, find a situation that needs to be resolved or a problem that needs a solution.

2. Give players access to sticky notes, markers, index cards, pipe cleaners, modeling clay—any supplies you have around the office that they could use to design and describe solutions.

3. Break large groups into smaller groups of three to four people and describe what they’ll tackle together: the anti-problem, or the current problem’s opposite. (For example, if the problem is sales conversion, the players would brainstorm ways to get customers to avoid buying the product.) The more extreme the problem’s opposite, the better.

Optional activity: Bring a list of smaller problems and decrease the amount of time allotted to solve them. Make it a race to come up with as many solutions as the group can churn out—even if they’re outlandish.

4. Give the players 15–20 minutes to generate and display various ways to solve the anti-problem. Encourage fast responses and a volume of ideas. There are no wrong solutions.

5. When the time is up, ask each group to share their solutions to the anti-problem. They should stand and display any visual creations they have at this time or ask the others to gather around their table to see their solutions.

6. Discuss any insights and discoveries the players have.

This game’s purpose is to help teams evaluate a problem differently and break out of existing patterns, so make the anti-problem more extreme than it really is, just to get people thinking. And don’t worry if the players don’t generate many (or any) viable or actionable solutions. Obviously, those would be a boon to the game, but the intention is not to eliminate a complex problem in 30 minutes. The intention is to give people a new approach that can lead to a solution when they have time to think after the meeting is over. Or, since this game tends to naturally segue into a conversation about the real problem, you could use any extra time to start that conversation while the players’ ideas are ignited. Note: there may be some unexpected “aha moments” as people could discover that they’re applying a solution that’s actually contributing to the current problem. Whoops!

The Anti-Problem game is based on an activity called Reverse It, from Donna Spencer’s design games website,

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  1. […] Anti-Problem is based on Reverse It from Donna Spencer’s design games website, […]

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